Developing children’s self-esteem begins with the life of the parents. What is self-esteem? Self-esteem is the ability to be assured of one’s own abilities, talents, worth, value, as well as, having personal acceptance, approval and respect for oneself.
Parents’ insecurities are frequently injected into the life of their children; therefore, becoming the children’s own set of insecurities. Parents’ vulnerabilities commonly become those of their children. Parents’ strengths and optimism can be an asset for their children. Ultimately, children are a mirrored reflection of the life lived by their parents. If parents’ have a particular set of perceived vulnerabilities, limitations, negative self-talk, weaknesses, or negative habitual acts, then the propensity that their children will develop such negative behaviors are increased. Likewise, if parents have developed positive habits, self-talk, and perceivable strengths; their children are placed in an advantageous position to develop a positive self-esteem.
HOW DO WE ESTABLISH POSITIVE SELF-ESTEEM IN CHILDREN?
It begins with the parents, and those who are in direct daily contact with the children (i.e. teachers, coaches). If parents declare their love for their children, but look at themselves with disdain, then the children will eventually begin to adapt the negative self-talk of the parents. Parents are the gatekeepers of the negative and positive self-talk. After all, children are not born with negative or positive self-talk, it is formed through their primitive developmental years and is commonly a reflection of their interaction with their parents. Parents will only exemplify what they personally know to be true in their own life. For if parents reject their own goodness, then their children are surely going to develop a similar set of attitudes about themselves.
Parental modeling is as important as any words that can be spoken. Therefore, it begins with positive modeling behaviors and positive self-talk. “Modeling this new way of thinking is a very effective way of encouraging your child to use it.” (Manassis, 1996, p. 47) Again, children adapt the behaviors, attitudes, percepts, and self-talk that we instill in them. “Many experienced parents have noted, children won’t always do as you say but usually do as you do.” (Manassis, 1996, p. 47)
Parents who have developed a belief system that equate the worth of their person to their behaviors, have a skewed view of themselves. “Affirming your worth is no easy task. Right now you believe that your worth depends on your behavior.” (McKay and Fanning, 2000, p. 37) Who we are, the worth of our being, has nothing to do with the behaviors, attitudes, or percepts that create our image. After all, our behaviors, attitudes, and percepts most commonly reflect how we see ourselves. Whereas, our worth should rely upon the unconditional understanding that whatever we do, and who we are, as people; we are worthy of unconditional acceptance, approval, and love.
Canadian Mental Health Association (2011) Children and self-esteem. Retrieved April 9, 2011, http://www.cmha.ca/bins/content_page.asp?cid=2-29-68
Manassis, K. (1996) Keys to parenting your anxious child. Hauppague, New York: Barron’s Educational Series, Inc.
McKay, M., Fanning, P. (2000) Self-Esteem third edition, A proven program of cognitive techniques for assessing, improving and maintaining your self-esteem. Oakland, California: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.